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9 November 1968

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Young music behind ancient make-up adds up to success

In a place of honour among the decorative paraphernalia adorning the wall of the NME Editorial is a reproduction of the colour photo you will find on the This Was Jethro Tull album cover. It depicts a pack of dogs surrounding four freakish characters of indeterminate age who look like the worse things you might find at the bottom of your garden or, perhaps, in the most grotesque reaches of Marty Feldman's imagination. Whatever they look like, it is far removed from the species known as homo sapiens normalsis.

Making my way to meet the Tull's Ian Anderson after a morning with Tiny Tim, it looked like being quite some day. But Ian, I was happy to discover, proved quite human, despite the hairy trappings that make melon eating a hazard and the Wild West hat that on this occasion made him look like a berserk Wild Bill Hicock.

At the offices of Chrysalis, co-manager Terry Ellis explained that Ian's problem in life was not sounding like Cliff Richard, before we made our way through Soho to the Two II's coffee bar.

Ian led with rolled up newspaper to the fore, explaining that it is wise to carry something to brandish when walking down Wardour Street as the taxis and delivery vans aim straight at anyone who doesn't look like one of their number.

Ian, who is 21 and looks it if you can focus past the distracting abundance of hair, is a young man who talks a lot of sense. His home is in Blackpool and his parents worked hard to give him a college education. It was then a difficult choice for Ian not to decide not to use his education and naturally his parents took it hard. Now they take great interest in the achievements of Jethro Tull and their pride will no doubt be heightened by the sight of the group's first LP storming up the album charts.

"My idea when I left school," says Ian, "was that I would never get anywhere, would have no money and people would dislike me. So if anything good does happen, I can say Yes I hoped that would happen, but I didn't expect it. That's why I am not jumping up in the air about the album. It certainly won't mean anything six months from now."

The original Jethro Tull was born in 1674 and was a major force in the pioneering of agricultural improvement.

"Somebody in the agency was always making cracks about Jethro Tull because I looked a country sod," says Ian.

Formed around last Christmas, the group started by playing what they thought would impress their managers, Terry Ellis and Chris Wright.

"We played 12-bar numbers, 'Dust My Broom' and that kind of thing. But you can only live on 'Dust My Broom' and things like that for a couple of weeks."


"Then there are two possibilities. You can either immerse yourself in Negro blues or own up that it is pretty decadent music anyway. It is somebody else's music, not today's music. If you are not capable and ready to get serious and really involved in blues then you might as well forget it. What I am trying to do is forget it.

"Really it is the same people who were listening to the Geno Washing-machine before who are listening to the blues now. When it started you had to do Peter Green or John Mayall things but just taking their things is not blues. They'd take nothing beyond what they knew. They knew about Peter Green and John Mayall but were probably much less aware of the blues than the kids of a few years back in the days when we used to walk around wearing combat jackets with John Lee Hooker on the back. They were more aware of the wider aspects of the blues then."


Now Ian feels the scene is opening up more.

"At the beginning they adopt someone else's idols and this is all they want to know about. As soon as it becomes a general scene, they begin to look for their own private thing, their own little discovery. They don't want last year's idols any more.

"If we carried on playing the same tunes we could keep going for a year or more and keep the fans we have but never add any new ones. Or we'll have to change. And I don't think anyone has changed from their successful formula and continued amassing followers as they went along. Beatles have, but five years ago it was a different scene. Moody Blues may have changed. Most people who try to change fail, and Spencer Davis is a heartbreaking example of this."

Ian sounded pessimistic about the future of Jethro Tull, but it should be pointed out that his views are conditioned by whatever mood takes him on that particular day.

"In the next month we will either cease to exist and go back to schools or working on the roads, or we will change," he says.


Many people would think the Tull were the opposite of all that is slick and false about show business. Ian says:

"Everything we do, consciously or not, is show business. A lot of people pretend the show business thing doesn't exist. They say, 'Look, we are down-to-earth honest real people.' I don't think there is an honest person in show business. Every time you go in front of an audience you become an act."

But because people have seen you do something for a matter of six months and they have liked it, to go on doing it for another six months to a year if it doesn't mean much to you, personally, is bad. Everything we have done, if not musically good, has been very honest. Basically the album was a bad album, but above all it was honest.

I liked Ian, the sense he made and his personal attitude to life. We walked together to Leicester Square Tube where Ian, on parting, asked when the article would be appearing so he could tell his Mum to get a copy. Jethro Tull are human.



Many thanks to Glenn Cornick for this article.